How Does Immigration Drive the Success of the Radical Right in Europe? New Report Assesses the Record in Nordic Countries
WASHINGTON — Though elections in Austria, Germany and France in 2017 and recent electoral outcomes in Italy and Hungary have demonstrated the rising power of radical-right parties in Europe, the phenomenon is hardly new in most Nordic countries. Denmark, Finland and Norway have radical-right parties that trace their roots back to at least the 1970s. And more recently, the Sweden Democrats established themselves at the national level in 2010.
Even as the Sweden Democrats, Danish People’s Party, the Finns Party and Norway’s Progress Party have been a far cry from capturing a majority of the vote in recent elections, their rise has been accompanied by an observable shift in public attitudes toward migration. The result: a hardening of asylum and immigration policies over the last decade, especially since the European migration crisis began in 2015. Nordic governments have introduced—and in some cases loudly celebrated—policies to reduce family reunification, restrict access to refugee and other protected statuses and limit access to public assistance benefits for non-nationals.
A new report from the Migration Policy Institute’s Transatlantic Council on Migration, The Growth of the Radical Right in Nordic Countries: Observations from the Past 20 Years, analyzes the rise and current dynamics of radical-right parties in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden.
In all four countries, immigration has become a core policy area for the radical right. But as author Anders Widfeldt notes, the electoral success of such parties cannot be tied neatly back to shifting levels of immigration or to public opinion of immigrants. A web of other factors—including how the parties are managed and the personalities of their leaders—are also at play.
“The marriage of a populist economic agenda that prioritizes welfare support for nationals in need with deep skepticism of immigration has proven to be a potent recipe for success, though the exact formula that parties adopt varies,” Widfeldt writes.
In responding to the radical right’s growth in popularity, mainstream political parties have taken three main approaches: co-opting radical-right policies in a bid to win over their opponents’ voters, accommodating the parties in government or isolating them by excluding them from governing coalitions. Yet, the author notes, there is little consistent evidence of which of these approaches (if any) are effective. And just as immigration is likely to remain high on the political agenda, radical-right parties are likely to continue to influence migration policy debates.
Read the report here: www.migrationpolicy.org/research/growth-radical-right-nordic-countries.
It is the second in a Transatlantic Council series, “The Future of Migration Policy in a Volatile Political Landscape.” As governments in Europe and North America grapple with growing skepticism about immigration and a rise in populism, the Council examined whether and how this new political reality has changed immigration policymaking.
Additional reports will be published over the summer and collected here: www.migrationpolicy.org/programs/transatlantic-council-migration/volatile-political-landscape
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The Migration Policy Institute (MPI) is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank in Washington, DC dedicated to analysis of the movement of people worldwide. MPI provides analysis, development and evaluation of migration and refugee policies at local, national and international levels. MPI’s Transatlantic Council on Migration is a unique deliberative body that examines vital policy issues and informs migration policymaking processes across the Atlantic community.